Battle of Sarantaporo
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|Battle of Sarandaporon|
|Part of the First Balkan War|
Map of the battle
|Commanders and leaders|
|Crown Prince Constantine||General Hasan Tahsin Pasha|
|5 divisions||2 divisions|
|Casualties and losses|
995 wounded, plus the missing casualties of the 1st Infantry Regiment
22 field artillery pieces
The Battle of Sarantaporo, variously also transliterated as Sarantaporon or Sarandaporon (Greek: Μάχη του Σαρανταπόρου) took place on October 9–10 (O.S.), 1912. It was the first major battle fought between the Greek and Ottoman armies in the First Balkan War, and resulted in a Greek victory.
During the course of 1912, tensions grew in the Balkans between the Christian Balkan states, allied in the Balkan League, and the Ottoman Empire. From mid-September, both sides started mobilizing. Bulgaria and Serbia mobilized on September 16, Greece followed on September 17. On September 25, Montenegro declared war, followed on October 4 by Bulgaria and Serbia.
The Greek Army of Thessaly, under Crown Prince Constantine (with General Panagiotis Danglis as his chief of staff) consisted of six divisions (1st–6th), with the 7th Division forming at Larissa, a cavalry brigade and four independent Evzones battalions.
Against the Greek army, the Ottomans deployed their VIII Corps under General Hasan Tahsin Pasha, with three divisions: the regular (nizamiye) 22nd Division at Kozani and two reserve (redif) divisions. The Ottoman force totaled 14 infantry battalions, with further 11 in reserve, supported by 24 artillery pieces and three machine-gun companies. However, the Ottoman formations were up to 25% under strength, since the Ottomans had demobilized large parts of their army in August. The Ottomans hoped to hold the naturally strong position of the Sarantaporo passes, which had been extensively fortified under the supervision of a German military mission before the war.
The Greek army crossed the border on October 5. The 1st and 2nd Divisions engaged the 1,500 Ottoman covering forces, occupied Elassona and Deskati, and reached the Sarantaporo passes on October 7. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Ottoman forces withdrew to Sarantaporo.
The Greek offensive against the Ottoman position began on 9 October, with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions attacking the Ottoman main line frontally, the 4th Division attempting a flanking move to the west to bypass the fortifications and thence occupy the Porta pass, in the rear of the Ottoman positions, while the 5th Division was ordered to execute an even wider manoeuvre to the west. The advance of the Greek troops on open terrain, under Ottoman artillery fire, caused many casualties, but by night, the three Greek divisions had established contact with the main Ottoman line. The 5th Division ran into stiff resistance, but the 4th Division managed to push back the Ottoman flank and to occupy its designated objective. During the night, the Ottoman forces, after becoming aware of the 4th Division's move, retreated in good order under the cover of the darkness and the heavy rain to avoid being completely encircled.
The battle was of major significance to the war. The Greek soldiers performed well, and the victory helped expunge the stain of the defeat in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897. Furthermore, the Sarantaporo passes were the only positions where the numerically inferior Ottoman forces had any hope of stopping the Greek army. Field Marshal von der Goltz had confidently proclaimed that the passes would prove to be "the graveyard of the Greek Army".
- The Hellenic Army during the Balkan Wars 1912-1913, Volume 1, p. 60, (Hellenic Army General Staff, Army History Directorate, Athens 1988)
- Defeat In Detail, The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912-1913, Edward J. Erickson, Praeger Publishers, 2003, pages 218-219
- Memoirs of General Hasan Tahsin Pasha, p. 22-23
- Memoirs of General Hasan Tahsin Pasha, p. 24-25
- Nikoltsios, Vasileios; Gounaris, Vasilis (2002). From Sarantaporo to Thessaloniki: The Memoirs of General Hasan Tahsin Pasha (in Greek). Thessaloniki. ISBN 960-92042-0-1.
- Hellenic Army History Directorate (1987). Concise History of the Balkan Wars (in Greek). Athens.